Tuesday 11 December 2018

RTÉ opts for white gowns and crimpers to sort out your life

Few frills: Wedding planner Franc in Say Yes to the Dress Ireland
Few frills: Wedding planner Franc in Say Yes to the Dress Ireland

John Boland

RTÉ keeps pleading for a licence-fee hike while coming up with shows that suggest it doesn't deserve one.

In this week's first instalment of Say Yes to the Dress Ireland (RTÉ2), three young women dithered over which gown to buy for their upcoming nuptials, while female friends and family members threw in their tuppence worth. And that was about it.

Am I missing something here? The show originated in America, where it's been running for more than 10 years, and there have also been UK and Australian versions, so clearly there's an audience for such frippery.

Hardly a male one, though, because all I saw in this Irish version was the parading of nine white dresses, none of which I or most male viewers could much distinguish from any of the others. Anyway, the majority of men don't really care about such things - their loss, I'm sure, but that's the way it goes, just as most women couldn't give two hoots about the ongoing travails of Arsène Wenger's Arsenal.

And even though the show's presenter, wedding planner Franc, is male, he hardly registered at all, though he must feel gratified at being granted a platform that provides a weekly ad for his business.

No, not for me, and the same goes for the daft if not downright demented Salon Confidential (RTÉ2), in which, according to Katherine Lynch's voiceover, a gaggle of stylists would "not only sort out your hair, they'll sort out your life as well".

Here we met "veteran stylist" Ruth, who declared "I shoot from the hip, I take no hostages and I don't suffer fools gladly", though what any of this had to do with crimping and chatting to customers wasn't explained.

Anyway, Ruth was attending to the pink hair needs of blogger Rosemary, who announced that she wanted to remain childless. Ruth, along with the other crimpers and clients, discussed this and after 15 minutes they came to the verdict that Rosemary would regret her decision.

Next up was former Miss Ireland Yvonne Costelloe, who wondered if, at the age of 60, she should get cosmetic surgery, and after another 15 minutes of heated debate, the salon came to the verdict that she should "go for it".

As I type this out I'm losing the will to live, but there was more to come. Deirdre from Wexford wanting to pursue a sexual life with multiple lovers and crimper Stephanie supporting her lifestyle choice with the rhetorical question "Who wants the same mickey all the time?"

As for who wants Salon Confidential, only RTÉ knows.

But our national broadcaster is still capable of facilitating individual talents who make programmes of some substance, and such a programme was Anthony Foley: Munsterman (RTÉ1), directed by Ross Whitaker and concerning the former head rugby coach of the province, who died suddenly in Paris last October at the age of 42.

The film could have been mere hagiography, and indeed there was nothing but praise and affection from such playing colleagues as Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara, Jerry Flannery, Keith Wood and Alan Quinlan. But the driven nature of Foley's personality wasn't ignored and the downturn in his reputation, when a succession of bad Munster performances led to booing and calls for his dismissal, wasn't shied away from, either.

And the eloquent contributions throughout from his two sisters, Rosie and Orla, lent the film a depth of feeling that was genuinely affecting.

Mention, too, should be made of the just-ended It's a Park's Life (RTÉ1), which had a clumsy title (why not just Park Life?) but which was an absorbing series about the wonders of the Phoenix Park and about the various people who work there, from deer rangers and honey makers to cricket ground staff, all of whom had interesting and informative stories to tell.

Then, of course, there was Acceptable Risk (RTÉ1) with its daft plotting and even dafter dialogue. Told to back off by her shifty chief superintendent, garda Emer decided to go it alone in this week's fourth episode. Why? Well, as she told Sarah: "To get to the truth, no matter who's standing in the way. I've burnt me bridges. Now all I can do is what you did - take the fight to them."

That's the true garda spirit for you, even if Sarah wasn't so sure. "I just want it all to be over", she said. Me too, Sarah, me too.

And if you're feeling the same, why not try Mindhunter (Netflix)? This is an 11-episode drama about how the FBI began to psychologically profile serial killers in the late 1970s (though the phrase hadn't yet been invented), and from the two episodes I've so far watched, it's very compelling.

You'd expect no less from director David Fincher (Se7en, The Social Network, Zodiac and the Netflix version of House of Cards) and here he assembles a cast of talented unknowns all the more potent for their unfamiliarity. It's grippingly dark, though not without humour, either.

Lucy Worsley's Nights at the Opera (BBC2) has the ubiquitous lisping historian as she introduces us to music that's "part of the soundtrack to our lives". Of course, this being Lucy, she keeps dressing up in period costumes as she chats about Monteverdi, Mozart, Beethoven and Verdi, but if you can keep from getting distracted she conveys quite a lot of information, too.

Still, I preferred Jonas Kaufmann: Tenor of the Ages (BBC4), a 90-minute documentary about the great singer that devoted as much time to his art as to his personality, though that also came shiningly through.

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